champs!
game one

behind the cutting edge

I've got some stuff to say, but first I want to quote some guy who said something I wish I'd said. It's sounds a bit like a cliche, so I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of those sayings everyone but me has already heard. But it's the truth, in any event:

"The simple fact is that every time [Alison] Krauss opens her mouth to sing, angels stop what they're doing and take notes."
My problem is, I'm no longer on the cutting edge. OK, I never was, but I at least used to be current with my passions. Nowadays, I'm six months behind on movies because I watch far more on DVD or HDTV than I do in a theatre; I'm six years behind on books because ... well, because I don't read enough of them; I'm six seasons behind on great teevee because I've only had HBO for a few months.

And television, in particular, is too much of the moment. No one wants to talk about last year's teevee show. Buffy obsessed me for years, but it's not on anymore, and so it's no longer an obsession.

So I want to write about some of the things I've been experiencing, but they're all 1) popular culture, and 2) not current. So I'm living in the past, and no one wants to hear about it.

I could start with Alison Krauss, since the DVD I picked up today is actually only a coupla months old. Of course, the concert it presents is more than a year old, as is the live CD that was the original document of these shows. Beyond that, no one reading this blog gives a shit about Alison Krauss, to the best of my knowledge. I've been a fan since Now That I've Found You in '95, which puts me ahead of the Oh Brother crowd but behind the true Alison connoisseurs. The problem with Krauss ... well, people who don't care for her think there's lots of problems, I only have the one ... is that she loves and needs her band, Union Station, and she's v.egalitarian about it, but the simple fact is, without Alison Krauss' singing, no one but bluegrass fanatics would hear any of this music. The dobro player is brilliant, the entire band is full of excellent musicianship, but Alison Krauss' voice is all that raises the music to the next level. She's otherworldly. She may need her band, but we need her. (And watching her, you are left to wonder where her voice came from. She looks pretty tiny, and she barely moves when she sings, but her voice is as big as a country Timi Yuro.)

As for the DVD, it looks superb, but the CD is probably cheaper. Sound is great, though, better than the CD, I assume, if you have 5.1 or DTS.

Meanwhile, I watched Full Metal Jacket again today because it was on INHD and I was just happy to have something in HD that was reasonably interesting. Having said that, I am not exactly the biggest Kubrick fan around ... as I have said before on this blog, I find Kubrick to be staggeringly overrated, and seeing the IMDB fans ranking Full Metal Jacket as the 97th-best movie of all time ... well, like I say, I think Kubrick himself is overrated, and I think he has other movies that are better than FMJ. Lee Ermey is funny as the drill instructor, even though I'm sure he's supposed to be scary. The movie hints at profundity but never delivers, and that would be my one-line critique of almost the entire Kubrick oeuvre. Kubrick's movies are so portentous that you sit there thinking they must be about something ... they aren't about anything, but the buildup is so severe I think people in the audience force themselves to believe the man is a genius and they concoct meaning where none exists. His movies are about BIG stuff, like depersonalization, but the details are fuzzy, and Kubrick's complete lack of humanism makes for some glossy emptiness. He's like a writer who expresses the fundamental boredom of life by writing a boring novel, then claiming he's touched reality: Kubrick makes movies with cyphers instead of people, conceptual characters instead of human beings, and then waits for us to admire his anti-human brilliance. But there's nothing human to grab onto, so why bother? It might have been ok in 1968 to watch 2001 and say "I get it, the computer is more human than the people." But it's the same message in Clockwork Orange (everyone who isn't Alex is non-human), Barry Lyndon (a movie so dead it's like a coffee-table book with "actors"), FMJ ... ok, I get it!

Finally, there's The Corner. This HBO mini-series from 2000 is quite simply one of the greatest pieces of television I have ever seen. But it's three years old, who cares, right? If it was a novel, we could be talking about it for the next hundred years, but as a teevee show, it's yesterday's news. So I'll just say it casts an unblinking eye at the drug culture without demonizing the addicts (like Sid and Nancy, but few others I can think of), it forces us to care about human beings we'd do everything in our power to ignore if they walked past us on the street (Kubrick would never think of anything so mundane as caring about humans), and it features, in the midst of several excellent acting jobs, an utterly heartbreaking job by T.K. Carter as a junkie who still remembers everything about being right, and knows he'll never get back there again. The haunted look in Carter's eyes is existential.

So this weekend, people will go to see the newest movies, and they should, and people will watch the latest episodes of their favorite teevee shows, and they should, and some of us will be at Pac Bell Park, and you KNOW we should ... but at some point, if you haven't ever seen it, all of those people need to get those Corner DVDs and settle in for a few hours. You won't find anything more powerful.

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